Earlier today I noted, in an update to an article about Ron Paul’s opposition to the use of military tribunals with lax standards of justice against Guantanamo prisoners, that Congressman Jerrold Nadler had also spoke out this morning, in criticism of President Obama’s plans to resurrect the show trials. Nadler’s new statements came on the heels of a hearing held by the House Judiciary Committee yesterday.
During that meeting, Nadler questioned FBI Director Robert Mueller about the central justification by those supporting Barack Obama’s resurrection of George W. Bush’s tribunals: That it would be a threat to national security to bring Guantanamo prisoners into prisons in the United States.
The following is a transcript of the exchange between the two:
Congressman Nadler: Assuming that people from Guantanamo are released into supermaximum security prisons in the United States, is there any problem holding them there?
Director Mueller: I hesitate to get into the specifics. It depends on where the person is held and what kind of security proceedings there are.
Congressman Nadler: I didn’t ask that. I said, do we have the capacity dangerous people in our maximum security prisons?
Director Mueller: Yes.
Congressman Nadler: Does their presence in a maximum security prison present any danger to the United States?
Director Mueller: Again, it depends on the circumstance. If it’s national security that’s [indecipherable] or something, it would be very difficult for them to get out, and very difficult for the person to undertake any activity, however, I will caveat in saying that in gang activity around the country, using that as an analogy, there are individuals in our prisons today, as I think you and others are familiar, that operate their gangs from within the walls of prisons. So, while there may not be the opportunity to escape, there may still be the risk as we see it.
Congressman Nadler: We have a number of Al Qaeda prisoners convicted in things like Ramsey Yusef and the Sheik what’s his name from the 1990s who planted a bomb in the World Trade Center, planned to blow up the Holland Tunnel and so forth. We have those people in our prisons today, do we not?
Director Mueller: Yes.
Congressman Nadler: Have they presented any particular danger to us?
Director Mueller: You’re talking about physical danger, in terms of being able to escape and undertake an attack? No.
In this interchange, the justifications of the Obama Administration for holding military tribunals outside of U.S. borders, designed after the fact to evade ordinary standards of justice are demolished.
1st: The FBI Director acknowledges that Al Quaeda terrorists have already been successfully convicted in domestic trials in the United States. The claim that U.S. courts cannot handle Guantanamo prisoners makes no sense given this history.
2nd: The FBI Director acknowledges that Al Quaeda terrorists have been held in U.S. prisons successfully, without any danger to Americans.
What’s left? All that Director Mueller could come up with is the idea that maybe, some time in the future, if prisoners from Guantanamo are transferred to U.S. prisons, they might be able to direct terrorist operations from within the maximum security prisons where they would be held, in the same way that leaders of some criminal gangs have been able to operate their gangs from within prisons in the past.
This final justification for the creation of an set of courts designed to administer a substandard version of justice is so wobbly that it can be knocked apart with just the slightest hint of critical consideration.
1st: It’s speculative. There is no record of any Al Quaeda terrorist running a terrorist network from within U.S. maximum security prisons. Mueller merely imagines that it could happen.
2nd: Mueller’s justification depends upon the analogy of domestic criminal gangs and foreign terrorist networks. It’s a terrible analogy. Gangs are able to be operated by people inside prisons because gangs are prison-based networks. Gangs recruit members in prisons because they operate as networks of mutual protection there. The inside-prison/outside-prison connection is maintained through a cycle of a large number of gang members who are given relatively short sentences for gang-related crimes, out of prison and then back in again. Such conditions are completely absent when it comes to Al Quaeda.
3rd: Even if the analogy of domestic criminal gangs and foreign terrorist networks were apt, it would not be a sound basis upon which to establish the Bush-Obama system of kangaroo courts. After all, the fact that some gang leaders have managed to direct some gang operations from within prison has not resulted in the shipment of unconvicted gang members to island prisons outside the borders of the United States. Neither have we seen a separate court system with low standards of justice deliberately designed to thwart defendants’ right to a fair trial, created only for people accused of gang-related crimes. Problems with the management of prisoners do not provide a reasonable excuse for the government to institute kangaroo courts in which the standards of justice required by the Constitution are ignored.
Last year, Barack Obama promised to put an end to the politics of fear when he became President. Now, we see that President Obama is relying upon the politics of fear to continue the worst policies of George W. Bush.
Reason can see that Obama’s recreation of military tribunals is an unjustified betrayal of our nation’s promise of impartial justice. Fear can only worry that impartial justice is insufficient, and hungers for quick and ruthless elimination of perceived threats without an objective consideration of the facts.
How disappointing that President Obama has chosen fear over reason, for the sake of political expediency. How encouraging it is to see Representative Nadler challenge the Obama Administration, and continue to speak up for the cause of impartial justice.